Tagged: Chivas USA

Major League Soccer… What’s Next?

I don’t begin to think I can capture all the issues or even ensure I get it right when it comes to the state of MLS but here’s what I see as being some topics to tease and tantalize the typical fan of MLS as the off-season approaches; others may have a different view?

  • Collective Bargaining Agreement
  • Two new expansion teams
  • Chivas USA going belly up – or down the rabbit hole for two years; pick your pleasure
  • Introduction of new USL Pro Sides affialiated with MLS teams
  • General Business Operating Conditions

Working from last to first – General Business Operating Conditions:

In a phrase the league operates from an “entitlement-based” system… no penalty for poor management other than bad press.

Even more disappointing is that poor management and leadership skills are rewarded with top draft picks and more money with the allocation process.

Is that like throwing good money on top of bad money or what?

In my opinion the sooner Business Conditions better reward great management and organizational skills the better this league will compete in the World for top class players.

And likewise – the sooner all Referee’s are Professionalized the better.

If you can’t support a top officiating system how can you expect to be first class as a Business?

Especially when every business organization out there knows… you need to have great quality control and great quality assurance to make yourselves better than the competition.

Finally, video replay – not just an MLS issue – but a FIFA issue.

Every major sporting system in this country has been able to find ways of leveraging video replay more effectively in the hopes of minimizing human error in judgment calls.  With the continued abuse by players on fake injuries and time wasting can FIFA really be expected to ignore the wholesale advantages of institutionalizing the use of video replay to confirm/deny controversial calls or non-calls?

Wouldn’t it be reasonable to take the lead with FIFA to institutionalize a video replay system that sustains the ‘time integrity’ of the game (treat video replay analysis as added injury time for instance) and take time to make time to ensure the right calls are made in one of the fastest paced and most lucrative games in the World?

It’s simply NOT TOO SOON to institute the opportunity for video replay – the sooner the better.  And if there was ever a management tool to mitigate “game throwing” it’s this one!

Introduction of new USL Pro sides:

Introduction of more, new, USL Pro Sides continues to establish a minor league feeder system not unlike Minor League Baseball… geographically developed leagues where the young talent can blossom and get promoted to the Big Team without the headache of College and an NCAA system that beggars common sense.

Just convince me with at least one reasonable statement how on earth the NCAA can continue to reinforce the use of multiple substitutions in a soccer game… if there is anything out there that better represents reinforcing an ‘entitlement based system’ it’s that!  Wow…

And with the continued pressure to align US Soccer with FIFA (THE International Governing Body for Soccer) how can an NCAA system, partly responsible for developing future US Soccer players, continue to work outside the lines of eveyone else?

So yes, I see the continued development of USL Pro sides as being a superb idea to do an end-run on the complete bollocks offered up by the NCAA.

And I also see it as being an adjunct to support MLS Teams that simply don’t have the same depth of youth soccer in their geographic area as other Teams…

Chivas USA going belly up or down the rabbit hole for two years – pick your pleasure:

Let’s be clear – an entitlement based system can work but it needs constant baby-sitting when owners and top brass in those clubs simply don’t know how to function.

What’s disappointing is that the MLS is literally weeks away from an Expansion Draft for two new clubs and they don’t even know what they’re going to do with all those excess players who already have contracts with MLS but no place to work next year.

The sooner this embarrasment to MLS gets resolved the better – what remains is how the league will disperse those players or leave them high and dry.

And since MLS owns the team why on earth do they hesitate in not moving that franchise elsewhere?

Just what is the rationale for keeping a team in LA when there are so many other areas of the country that have better facilities or ownership schemes, with better organizational skills, to fully function as a franchise?

The less said here the better…

Two new expansion teams:

Congratulations are due to the owners and supporting staff of Orlando City and New York City!

Strengths – in this case the more the better as the level of competition should increase and therefore the level of intrigue and media attention should increase – with that the level of revenue should increase – all good if your looking to expand the popularity of soccer in the United States.

Weaknesses – More means less.

With more teams there may be less skilled players to continue to build a respectable league that can help the US sustain a high level of standard in feeding the US Mens National Team.

In other words – given the increase in teams, and not the same corresponding increase in skill levels, there is greater risk that the technical ability of the league will move closer to that of College soccer and further from leagues like the English Premier League (the benchmark in my opinion).

And I’d be willing to bet that if you ask any College Coach the ‘what’s up with the technical side of college soccer’?

They’d offer this… we are continuously measured (fired and hired) for our ability to win games with semi-talented players that usually drive us towards a direct attacking style of play, as opposed to a more possession-based, technical passing game, where direct attacking is a (run of play) tactic not an enforced need.

In other words – College soccer, given a poorer/watered down talent pool, usually plays more direct simply because they don’t have the skilled players, in the right areas, to play more technical based soccer.

With the introduction of two new sides, without a substantial increase in the Salary Cap, it is likely we will see an even greater gap in teams that have and teams that don’t have…

Exactly the opposite of what the College Draft and Allocation Money reward system is in place to prevent…

Collective Bargaining Agreement:

Here’s some areas where I think additional clarity/changes are needed to make MLS better:  Player salaries, What to do about Chivas USA, Changes in Allocation Money/Salary Caps, Numbers of designated players, MLS Best XI, College Drafts, and Scouting.

Player Salaries – as the volume of money increases through improved media contracts it seems only reasonable that the players will be reaping some additional benefit from that effort.

How that takes shape compared to increased expansion within the MLS and USL Pro is unclear but expect it to be a discussion point that will need to be resolved as part of the CBA.

Chivas USA – as noted earlier – a complete balls-up…  how and when and where do the players get sorted, with a two year hiatus, given that Chivas didn’t even own the players to begin with.

Do they go straight into the new sides or is there an additional ‘draft’ of sorts for the leftovers after NYCFC and OCFC take their picks?

And given the overall poor team performance exactly how many of those players are really worthy of competing for a spot in more functionally effective teams?

Whatever happens I imagine it will be sorted out either before or part of the CBA; this may include setting up an organizational process if this event might be expected to happen again.

Allocation Money and Salary Cap – a bit of a mystery there – for the most part the Salary Cap simply has to go up if this league is so sustain a growing level of talented players.  And the more teams you have the more talented players you need.

I’d expect the owners will look for a substantial increase in the Salary Cap and may even poo-poo a substantial increase in Allocation Money.  Increasing Allocation Money rewards poor management but increasing the Salary Cap doesn’t – it rewards great management more…

Designated Players – if the league is really looking to expand the skill level then it is likely more DP’s will be needed or made available as part of operating costs…  And with an increase in teams it is likely this changes; so perhaps more of the burden falls to the individual team than MLS as a whole.

And while not mentioned specfically – the number of foreign players needs to increase as well.  Limiting foreign players reinforces MLS teams having to sacrifice ‘foreign’ positions for lower skilled players that are American.

By increasing the amount of foreign players quality goes up – if quality goes up competition to make those teams goes up – that in turn should drive up the standard Americans need to play towards if they are going to compete at the very highest level.

MLS Best XI – I continue to find it highly embarrassing to this league that their Best XI is comprised of just three defenders instead of four defenders.  No-one in this league operates a 3-4-3 and only a couple of teams have experimented in this effort.  And when running a 3 CB formation (3-5-2) the wideouts, on those formations, are usually fullbacks converted to wingers.

With one of the biggest gaps in technical skills residing in the Fullback position across this league, and on the USMNT, you would have thought MLS would want to showcase the Fullback talent a bit better in this league.

College Drafts – the average age of college students completing 3-4 years of college puts them about 2-3 years behind most of their counterparts in competitive soccer – and in some cases as many as 4-5 years behind.

If college players are to have greater influence then the NCAA needs to fix the college game to match FIFA – get rid of the unlimited substitution rule and run the match according to FIFA – this may also help better develop Referee’s in this country…

Scouting – based upon what I’ve heard the MLS runs ‘scouting combines’ for players to sell their wares to every team all at once.  What is that all about?  A competitive market should be driven by who’s the best at organizing and excuting scouting themselves…  the idea of having an even playing field for scouting players is past.  It breeds entitlement.

In closing:

Plenty of activity this off-season; lots of opinions, thoughts, and postulates… mine are just a few, be them well founded, controversial, or fundamentally flawed they are what they are…

Feel free to pile on with your thoughts, rants, or raves.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark


MLS – Week 29 – Gregg Berhalter – Manager of the Year? I think so…

Most should know, by now, that the top teams in MLS are queueing up for the final playoff push while others sit in dispair and wonder what’s gone wrong…

I’ll dig into that, in detail, in a few weeks – for now let’s take a look at those teams on the cusp (a whole bunch I might add) and see what we can see…

In the tradition of my analyses here’s the latest Possession with Purpose Strategic Composite Index (CPWP):

CPWP Strategic Index Week 29 MLS

Figure the West is down to two teams unless Portland completely folds with four games to go; for some perhaps not as unlikely as they’d like to admit given Will Johnson is out and Diego Valeri misses the next game against San Jose.

In the East it’s not quiet as simple – this conference has been plagued with bad team performances throughout the year – and it’s almost sickening to sense that Sporting Kansas City, a year in and year out top performer, will move to the Western Conference next year… wow – that sucks!

Be that as it may, Toronto, Philadelphia, Houston, and New York are battling for the 5th Playoff spot.

That doesn’t mean Columbus is in the clear but if ever a team deserved to make the Playoffs, in the East, it would be Columbus – one of the MOST consistent teams this year…

And that consistency of purpose has also translated to results in the league table – Caleb Porter did that with the Portland Timbers last year and Gregg Berhalter is doing that with Columbus this year…

Team performance AND results, combined, matter!

In my opinion Gregg Berhalter, hands down, is Manager of the Year!

I get it that Ben Olsen has turned his team around – but Berhalter has rebuilt his team – all Olsen has done is really find two new strikers and upgraded some defensive players – he has not rebuilt and redirected a new philosophical approach like Berhalter has.

Of course Columbus still need to make the playoffs to etch in stone that results oriented improvement matches team attacking and defending performance improvement.

Anyhow, I digress… statistically speaking the CPWP Strategic Index correlation (R2) to average points in the league table is (.83) – the highest yet this year.

Before moving on to APWP, some additional thoughts on Toronto, Philadelphia and Houston…

I watched that Toronto victory over Portland the other day and I can’t help but think how horrid that team is in overall, run of play, performance.

If the Timbers had any inkling of a defensive minded bench, and starting squad, the Reds would have been blown away – wow… but it’s about results in this league and when it came to set-pieces they got results.

As for Philadelphia – my hat is off to Jim Curtin – he’s taken the same squad, made a defensive tweak and brought them back – other than that nothing, absolutely nothing has changed between he and John Hackworth; er… other than the results – which of course stems from that defensive change — more here.

Both solid guys, both wanting to win, one took one path and it didn’t pay off – so the other took a slightly different path and it paid off…

Houston – well – they’ve been on the far side of great team performances this year more than most – what started as a good run might end as a good run – who knows – it’s a funny conference and poor performances in the East don’t mean you lose… fancy that!

Now on to Attacking PWP – here’s how they stand after Week 29:

APWP Strategic Index Week 29 MLS

A shiny example of how simply being a great attacking team ISN’T the answer in this league – too much focus by New York and Portland in attack as opposed to defending has cost them – BIG TIME… Cameron Knowles is the Defensive Coordinator for the Timbers and it’s clear, to me, he needs to go.

I’d imagine whoever the defensive coordinator for the Red Bulls is should be moved too…

Caleb Porter is a brilliant leader – and when you have brilliant leaders you don’t need ‘yes-men’ to work with them.

You need assistanct coaches with vision that looks in different areas – asks tough questions – pushes their own defensive agenda to make others in the organization to think even more, all the while stretching/pushing the added research and analysis you need to outperform the opponent on both sides of the ball…

I don’t personally know Cameron – have never even talked with him; he’s proabably a really good guy…

But it is clear, given the consistently bad defending nature/statistics/results of this team (goals against are 4th worst in MLS) the internal organizational structure to build a strong – defensive minded – thinking team – isn’t there…

If they make the Playoffs they will be lucky – very lucky; and that’s hard to say for me #RCTID!

New York – if New York gets edged out by any of those Eastern Conference teams I’d imagine Mike Petke gets sacked… the Red Bulls, like Portland, have been dodgy in defending all season long…

Sidenote:  With respect to Thierry Henry – he’s such a classy guy – I met him in the elevator at the MLS All Star game and he’s a normal guy, who respects his Head Coach, whoever that might be, and he simply plays great attacking football.

While he’s offered no indication he might retire I think he does; and unlike Landon Donovan I think Thierry is OKAY with not having his retirement, here, being made a big deal.

I’d offer a simple testamonial with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is good enough for Henry – and rightly so – as his best footballing years came in London town!

Now about those fringe teams… Toronto, Houston, Philadelphia, and New York in the East…

  • Toronto – one of the worst passing teams in Major League Soccer – 75% across the entire pitch (5th worst in the league).  What makes this team work is Michael Bradley’s vision – a superb acquisition for MLS but is it good enough to stop the playoff-missing rot?
  • As for technical things that might have changed with Vanney taking over after Nelson got booted – I’m not seeing any… maybe things will show better at the end of the season – for now I think that bust up was about ego more than anything else…
  • Philadelphia – as noted, this team has tactically changed with John Hackworth being replaced by Jim Curtin.  Like Toronto, Philadelphia is a poor passing team – what is getting them where they are now is better defending – take note Portland!
  • Houston – on the trailing edge of good attacking and defending performances all season long.
  • As noted though – the tenor of Houston hasn’t been about leading, against teams, in attack – it’s more of a grinding team that works hard in defending and tries to take advantage of opponent weak spots when attacking.
  • Adding Garido and Beasley has helped that and you’ll see below in DPWP they are 7th worst after Week 29; yet after Week 19 they were 2nd worst – a move up the Index a full five places…
  • I’d imgine it’s that tenor that has lead to discussion about Kinnear moving to San Jose – hmmm… there’s more to that than meets the eye…
  • Anyhow, Bruin has flopped this year, and it’s likely he gets moved – and with Davis spending time with the USMNT that may have cost this team a whole bunch in leadership.
  • At the end of the day – Houston have a possible 15 points with five game remaining – all against Eastern Conference foes.
  • While it’s a long shot, if they get past New York this next weekend, I can see the dominoes fall in a favorable direction for the dynamic Dynamo – if the defense holds…  (my sleeper to push New York out…)

Moving on to Defending PWP:

DPWP Strategic Index Week 29 MLS

By the way – there’s Columbus at the top of the Defending PWP Strategic Index – and they were 5th best in APWP – for a combined 2nd best in CPWP…

Defense wins, so hopefully we see that consistent team performance carry on to the Playoffs and through to the finals!

As for the three teams (plus New York) in the East?

Team performance wise – there’s Houston sitting above New York, Philadelphia and Toronto – and six of the bottom seven teams in all of MLS (for team defending performance) are teams from the Eastern Conference – only the embarrassing, pathetic, Chivas USA are worse…

And with them taking a two year hiatus (you might as well say ‘relegated’) it’s about time that poorly organized team was dumped and replaced – hopefully they move as well!  I wonder how that impacts the Expansion Draft?

Anyhow – in the West, note that Vancouver has edged back into the higher echelon of team defending – they have FC Dallas, at home, with Seattle away, San Jose away and Colorado at home.

In Week 19, Vancouver were 9th best in DPWP – even with those two recent losses to Portland, they have now climbed to 5th best in DPWP; you don’t need to beat everybody to make the playoffs…

I can see Vancouver taking six of 12 points here.  Can the Timbers take nine of 12 points with two matches against San Jose, one against Real Salt Lake, and the final one away to FC Dallas (who will most certainly not want to finish 4th)?

Hard to say but if Gaston Fernandez can step in for Diego Valeri who knows?

For now, and I’ve not offered this before, I think playing both Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri, on the pitch, hurts the tenor of team defending on this team.

It’s almost like those two guys are too dynamic in attack and less able to motor and provide a  more box-to-box support this team probably needs in defending…

If they stay together then the upgrade at both fullback spots – plus another center-back – is really needed to keep the defense sound.  I digress…

All that said means San Jose are a likely doormat the last five games.

If Watson is elementary  in coaching the last four games he is surely gone for next year – I’d imagine he and Wondolowski and others will not want to finish the season with just six points – and that’s opining that they can beat Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto as well as take the expected three points against Chivas?

Unlikely – I’d offer Watson sees HIS team as being one that can pull 12 points out of their remaining five games – especially since their last one is against Chivas USA…

In closing:

All to play for – regardless of how things go this year – these same teams will not have these same players next year.

One thing about MLS is that variation in team composition is consistent – the expansion draft is likely to see a few teams lose at least two players – making the academy and (individual) team scouting all the more important than a ‘composite’ MLS scouting approach.

To think that this franchise driven league relies more on an overall ‘collective scouting system to get players for the league’ flies in the face of the very economic and competitive structure of this country where individual thinking, individual feeling, and individual analysis suits individual companies better to make them individually more competitive.

It’s not about the “league” anymore in my opinion – and Chivas USA, coupled with New York City FC and all that the Manchester City pedigree brings with it, has shown that.

From here on (MLSNext???) it should be about the individual team within the larger franchise.

I think it’s time for poker to go up…  MLS has arrived as a competitive league – now individual teams, and individual owners, should go out there and bloody compete on a team to team footing and may the best organization win!

And yes, Gregg Berhalter should be the MLS Coach of the Year!

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark




Colorado Rapids Ripped, Sundered, and Shredded – MLS Soccer through Week 26

It’s been awhile, I suppose, since a score-line of 6-nil has popped up in Major League Soccer and given the rarity, at least this year, I figured it’d be a worthy way to peel back how things are going in my traditional review of Major League Soccer each week.

As for the last time a score-line like that happened I haven’t got an historical clue but it’s the biggest difference in a score-line I’ve seen since analyzing team performance on Possession with Purpose.

In fact I do recall a five – nil win earlier this year, by New England, over Seattle.  And a five – nil win, by Montreal, over Houston last year, but nothing comes to mind for a score-line of six – nil.  (Perhaps?) others may know of a really lopsided win like this one in the history of MLS.

In all the games so far this year this was the most dominating ‘result’ and ‘outright team performance in possession with purpose’ of anyone; in case you were wondering – in the Timbers game against San Jose, this past weekend, their APWP for that game was 2.6938.

So when I mean comprehensive – I mean from, square one to the opponents goal, comprehensive… Only seven times have teams shattered the 3.0 barrier in the APWP Index this year; here they are in order:

  1. LA Galaxy 6-nil win over Colorado, Week 26 = 3.1740
  2. FC Dallas 4-1 win over Houston, Week 5 = 3.1032
  3. LA Galaxy 5-1 win over New England, Week 16 = 3.0858
  4. Columbus Crew 3-nil over Houston, Week 25 = 3.0675
  5. Chicago Fire 5-4 win over New York, Week 9 = 3.0302
  6. Sporting KC 3-nil win over Montreal, Week 9 = 3.0062, and finally
  7. DC United 3-1 win over Chivas USA, Week 19 = 3.0008

Note: the games in bold print, with italics, are games where the losing side had a Red Card.

For me, this reinforces that my ‘not‘ counting Red Cards, as a separate data point, to influence this Index, is appropriate.

If I were to add Red Cards, to the Index equation, a team would be penalized twice.

With that offered here’s the overall Composite PWP through Week 26:

CPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26I’ve already touched on some observations here in my article earlier this week, about Standard Deviations, so just a couple of additional bits and pieces.

The R2 (correlation of this Index to Points in the League Table) is .79 this week; compared to .80 last week…

Relation to the League Table:

  • Five out of the top six Eastern Conference teams, in this Index, are currently above the red line in the League Table; with Philadelphia and New York swapped in this Index compared to the League Table.  (80% accurate)
  • Five out of the top five Western Conference teams, in this Index, are currently above the red line in the League Table.  (100% accurate)
  • Gentle reminder – the End State of this Possession with Purpose Analysis is to create an Index that comes as close to matching the League Table, as possible, without using points earned from wins or draws.

Moving on to the Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

As expected, the top team in APWP remains LA Galaxy – all told a 10% lead over all other teams in MLS.  Chivas USA, and Wilmer Cabrera (bless him for trying) remain bottom.

The worst team in attack specifically for Week 26 (only) was Vancouver; with DC United 2nd worst and Toronto FC 3rd worst.  DC United and Vancouver played to a nil-nil draw so that’s probably no surprise.

As for Toronto – well, who bloody knows?

As offered by my friends Stephen Brandt (along with Keith Kokinda) on this latest podcast it appears to many in the northeast that Toronto is battling hard to become the Chivas USA of Canada; seems they are doing a pretty good job of that!

In concerning Portland, who had some records this past week in Shots Taken and Shots on Goal.

We already know, this year, that a critical element to scoring goals (that isn’t really measured publicly) is Time and Space.

In watching that game there is no question the Timbers had time or had space – but rarely did they have both…

As much as it may pain some folks San Jose, believe it or not, were in the right place at the right time (given the volume of shots faced) more often than not…  after all they did block nine of those 32 shots offered.

And if you didn’t know, Portland have four games where their opponent has blocked nine or more shots this year.  Only one other team has had that many shots blocked in more than one game – LA Galaxy; twice.

Seattle has the record this year – they had 12 shots blocked by, guess who, San Jose in Week 23!!!  And guess who one of the teams was that blocked nine or more against LA – yup – San Jose!

Can you say ZONE DEFENSE?

So I’m not sure I completely agree with Caleb Porter when he indicates it’s not about tactics anymore (to paraphrase).

I would offer he really knows it is – but when dropping two points, at home, again… I can certainly empathize with him voicing that in a press conference.

For me, what that translates to is this… given the amount of time left in the season there is absolutely no value and benefit going over technical weaknesses in detail.

They are known, understood, and they need to be filed, recognized for what they are, and move on.

In other words – roll the sleeves up and just bloody get on with the job in hand – win…

Come this next weekend, against Colorado, who were COMPLETELY humiliated by LA Galaxy – you can bet Mastroeni is not only wanting his team to win to get back in the race – but he’s also probably wanting his team to win in order to keep his chances of running the Rapids next year a reality…

With that said, here’s the Defending PWP Strategic Index through Week 26:

DPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

I read somewhere, here, that Columbus Crew were the biggest over-achievers in Major League Soccer and slow in defending; bollocks… complete and utter bollocks.

You simply can’t convince me that this team performance Index, with a -.7o correlation to points in the League Table, supports Columbus being “over-achievers and slow in defending”…

Let’s not forget that Columbus is the most consistent team in passing accuracy across MLS (least standard deviation i.e. consistency of purpose)

Indeed, as the Composite PWP Index points out at the beginning of this article, the Columbus Crew are simply a strong team that has been consistently strong throughout the year.

  • At Week four they were best in the CPWP Index
  • At Week seven they were 2nd in the CPWP Index
  • At Week 12 they were 3rd in the CPWP Index
  • At Week 18 they were 5th in the CPWP Index
  • And at week 22 they were 5th in the CPWP Index
  • Now – they have climbed back up to 3rd best in the CPWP Index
  • Not sure there have been many teams, besides LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, who have been as consistently strong in consistency of purpose.

So like I said – bollocks to them being pidgeon-holed as over-achievers… and while many may disagree, for me, this is just another example of how poorly the mainstream media do in really knowing, understanding and communicating what football (soccer) is all about.

In regarding Houston… and their position in DPWP.

The addition of Luis Garrido has added value; they have pushed up past Chicago Fire SC, and are mere thousandths of a point behind both Montreal and Toronto in team defending.

As for Toronto – they continue their slide…

I’m simply having a hard time wrapping my head around Nelson being sacked, I do see statistical information supporting the sacking but most organizations lean towards ‘results’ as opposed to ‘statistical indicators’… and when it came to results Toronto were third best in the Eastern Conference before Ryan was sacked.

(Perhaps?) this is a ‘team organizational decision making indicator’ (from Toronto FC) where statistical information has as much, if not more value in a coaching change,  than ‘results do’???

In closing…

The screws get turned even tighter… winning is the key but within that phrase there remains the need to tactically ‘get it right’… meaning defense is absolutely critical.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp





MLS – Reading the Tea Leaves and Predicting Week 20 Outcomes…

A full slate of games for Week 20 that started off with a smashing win by San Jose over a very shabby Chicago – were you surprised; you shouldn’t have been. 

Chicago Fire have the worst average in overall team defensive performance of any team in MLS this year  – and it certainly doesn’t get better on the road.  Read my latest on the Attacking and Defending PWP Indices from Week 19 here.

In addition; San Jose – believe it or not – are one of the most frugal teams in Defensive Possession with Purpose this year (3rd best in my Index to be exact {2.2510}).

To start – a reminder of three things:

  1. The Possession with Purpose Predictability Indices work from PWP “without” Goals Scored or Goals Against – in other words I use the bell curve of five activities, not six, in order to offer an Index of prediction.
  2. To date, after four weeks, the PWP PI has been 74% accurate in predicting the outcomes of games – if you just pick the “home” side to win every game you’d have a 62% chance of being accurate.
  3. This Predictabiliy Index is not leveraged until after most teams have played at least 17 games – there is not enough historical data to generate worthy trends prior to the half-way point in the season.
  4. The two PWP Predictability Indices (Home) and (Away) are provided below for your consideration before I offer up the predicted results.







Let the games begin…

  1. San Jose at home to Chicago – results are already in – San Jose wins – PWP PI indicates San Jose should have won (.0368) to Chicago (-.2241).  PWP PI was accurate.
  2. Real Salt Lake at home to Montreal – Home PI for RSL =  .1374 / Away PI for MIFC = -.0170.  PI predicts RSL win.
  3. Colorado at home to Chivas USA – Home PI for CRFC = .1754 / Away PI for CUSA =  -.1827.  PI predicts CRFC win.
  4. Toronto at home to Sporting KC – Home PI for TFC = .1010 / Away PI for SKC = .0929.  PI predicts TFC win.
  5. New England at home to Columbus – Home PI for NER = .2516 / Away PI for CCFC =  .2047.  PI predicts NEW win.
  6. Vancouver at home to FC Dallas – Home PI for VWFC = .1912 / Away PI for FCD = -.2379.  PI predicts VWFC win.
  7. Montreal at home to Portland – Home PI for MIFC = -.0170 / Away PI for PTFC = .0486.  PI predicts PTFC win.
  8. Seattle at home to LA Galaxy – Home PI for SSFC = .2669 / Away PI for LAG = .1031.  PI predicts SSFC win.

In Closing…

That’s from a clinical/objective standpoint looking at the comprehensive ‘bell curve’ of activities that teams have offered in their first 19 weeks of play.

There are intangibles, as always, in soccer – with 22 players, 2 Assistant Referees, 1 Referee, 2 Head Coaches and the potential for 6 total substitutions most anything can happen that might turn a game on its head.

I can’t account for those intangibles but if teams have a propensity for making mental mistakes, getting red cards, or yielding PK’s, on a regular basis, than those intangibles will pile up and impact/influence overall team performance.

Good examples of intangibles at this stage include some:

  • New England are in a slump – seven straight losses
  • FC Dallas are on an up-swing
  • As are Chivas USA
  • Montreal have two games (in four days) against two of the best attacking teams in the Western Conference
  • Colorado have some injuries to deal with
  • Seattle is taking on an LA team that just got thrashed by Manchester United – but LA are simply one of the top performing teams in attack and defense (regardless of being home or away)
  • Toronto are really beginning to gel in attack
  • Portland are one of the best road teams in MLS this year and the addition of Liam Ridgewell does appear to have made their defensive scheme better.
  • Western Conference teams have simply done better against Eastern Conference teams this year (105 points now for the West versus just 69 points for the East in head-to-head competitions).


  • And they are considering moving Sporting KC to the West at some point in the future?  WOW – talk about an unbalanced Major League Soccer Conference scheme!
  • As much as it pains me to say it there should be one Conference and one League or a split to create four Conferences (two east {north/south} and two west {north/south}).
  • If the league is going to operate based upon the ‘entitlement’ that once a team is “in they stay in” (forever with no relegation) then the sooner this league organizes itself like other major sporting leagues in this country the better.

Finally, and perhaps the most controverisal of my views.

  • I don’t look at individual statistics
  • The game is played by a team… and teams win and lose – individual players don’t.
  • Actions, as much as “non-actions” both impact and influence the outcome of games.
  • And no… the statistics that folks should consider generating for this league, as a whole, should not mirror those of Baseball.
  • The further away from Baseball type statistics the better it will be for others (new to the game) to really understand how much of a ‘team game’ soccer really is.

That’s my soap-box rant for the day – a good podcast to listen to where I explain that view is here:  Yellowcarded Podcast.

  • The time hack to begin listening starts around the 3 minute mark and goes to the 35 minute mark
  • Towards the end of that 35 minute mark I respond to a question about the MLS Castrol Index that speaks to my views on the strengths and weaknesses of individual statistics
  • MLS Castrol Index – An individual Index (sponsored through MLS) that is so obtuse and inaccurate it’s mention is hardly worthy as I feel like it’s a backhanded recommendation to click on it and review the outcomes – don’t waste your time!

Best, Chris


Reflections of MLS Week 16; Predictable or not??? And what about Chivas USA these last three games… anything there in PWP to see?

As you know I’ve attempted to create a Predictability Index (PI) from my Possession with Purpose (PWP) analysis.  Here’s a link in case you missed the first article on PWP Predictability.

Before looking at the overall results here’s a reminder on where all the teams stand after 17 weeks:

CPWP INDEX End of Week 17

CPWP INDEX End of Week 17

Not every team has played 18 games yet so the Index is not equal – just like the MLS Table; Toronto have four games in hand over some teams in the Eastern Conference and the LA Galaxy have as many as five games in hand over some teams in the Western Conference.

When looking at the Western Conference CPWP (where all teams have played 14 games) the Index has LA atop (.2380); with Seattle 2nd (.2008); Colorado 3rd (.1578); Portland 4th (.0616) and Vancouver 5th (.0470).

All told that’s 3 of the top five teams in the Western Conference – not ideal but pretty close.

When looking at the Eastern Conference CPWP (where all teams have played 14 games) the Index has Sporting FC atop (.2219); with Columbus 2nd (.1578); DC United 3rd (.0807); New England 4th (.0347) and New York 5th (-.0416).

All told that’s four of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference – again not ideal but pretty close.

How does last year compare to this year after Week 17?  I’ll cover that in my next article…  For now since most teams have eclipsed the 17 game barrier I use the separate Home and Away CPWP Predictability Indices…

A reminder, of sorts, the CPWP PI is not intended to predict draws; it’s strictly an attempt to “test” how well it can/could predict wins.

The diagrams (along with individual Team Index numbers)  are provided at the end of this article.

Before kick-off; a reminder that last weekend’s games saw the CPWP PI had relevance in five out of six games where a team won/lost versus drew.

So for teams that won on the road this week we have:

Chivas USA defeating San Jose and DC United defeating Toronto FC.

The away CPWP PI for Chivas USA is -0.19; the home CPWP PI for San Jose is -0.04; the PI indicates Chivas should have lost – they won (inaccurate).

The away CPWP PI for DC United is -0.16; the home CPWP PI for Toronto FC is +0.09; the PI indicates DC United should have lost – they won (inaccurate).

So for teams that won at home this week we have:

FC Dallas defeating Philadelphia Union; Real Salt Lake defeating New England Revolution, Vancouver Whitecaps defeating Seattle Sounders and Chivas USA defeating Montreal.

The home CPWP PI for Dallas is +0.07; the Away CPWP PI for Philadelphia is -0.02; the PI indicates Dallas should have won – they won (accurate).

The home CPWP PI for Real Salt Lake is +0.04; the Away CPWP PI for New England is 0.00; the PI indicates Real Salt Lake should have won – they won (accurate).

The home CPWP PI for Vancouver is +0.18; the away CPWP PI for Seattle is -0.06; the PI indicates Vancouver should have won – they won (accurate).

The home CPWP PI for Chivas USA is -0.28; the away CPWP PI for Montreal is -0.11; the PI indicates Montreal should have won – they lost (inaccurate).

In closing… and that promised look at Chivas USA.

All told where there weren’t draws the CPWP PI was three out of six games.

Excluding draws that’s two weeks of (5 for 6) and (3 for 6); (8 for 12) = 66% accurate.

Clearly betting against Chivas USA at this time is not a worthy endeavor.

Here’s the differences in their Possession with Purpose indicators in the first 14 weeks compared to the last three weeks:

  • First 14 Weeks (APWP = 2.1425 / 2nd worst in MLS)
  • First 14 Weeks (DPWP = 2.5341 / 2nd worst in MLS)
  • First 14 Weeks (CPWP = -0.3915 / worst in MLS)
  • Last three Weeks (APWP = 2.2217 / 5th worst in MLS)
  • Last three Weeks (DPWP = 1.9502 / BEST in MLS)
  • Last three Weeks (CPWP = 0.2715 / BEST in MLS)

With that significant change in Defending PWP it’s worth a quick look to see what’s what in the first 14 Weeks versus the last three weeks…

  • First 14 Weeks Opponent (Possession 57.14%, Passing Accuracy 79.73%; Penetration 15.84%; Shots Taken per Penetration 19.34%; Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken 38.15%; Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal 43.21%)
  • Last three Weeks Opponent (Possession 57.96%; Passing Accuracy 79.67%; Penetration 19.21%; Shots Taken per Penetration 15.27%; Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken 22.92%; Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal 0.00%)
  • The differences?  Opponent penetration has increased while the number of opponent shots taken and shots on goal and goals scored have decreased.
  • Without having seen any of their games I would offer that Chivas has decided to open up the opponent opportunities in penetrating in order to tighten the screws a bit deeper inside the 18 yard box…
  • In other words they are not running two banks of four players atop and outside the final third – they have dropped a bit deeper and are now running their banks of four more within and around the 18 yard box.
  • Perhaps others who follow Chivas USA more closely could offer visual information to determine if that is an accurate assessment?

 As promised the CPWP PI Home Index:



As promised the CPWP PI Away Index:



Best, Chris

Next up Week 17 PWP in review…

PWP thru Week 12 + Home or Away who’s better/worse in PWP?

If you’ve been following my Possession with Purpose and Expected Wins articles/streaming research you should know by now that the data had a pretty strong correlation to the MLS League Tables last year.

So how do things look for PWP at this stage in the MLS this year?  

Through Week 12 Composite PWP

Through Week 12 Composite PWP

A few thoughts….

  • It’s early days but the two teams lowest in the League Table (Western and Eastern Conference) also happen to be the lowest teams in the PWP Composite Index this year.
  • Caveat – the amount of data for this Index is not ideal; ideal would be how the Index begins to take shape from Week 17 on-wards.  I am, however, providing you this information so we can all watch how this Index takes shape for the entire year.
  • As noted, last year the final Index was compelling in its relationship to the League Table; I have no idea if that will be the case this year.
  • However viewed I don’t advocate that this Index represents a substitute for the League Table but those teams performing well in scoring points also seem to be those teams performing well in Possession with Purpose; or is it vice versa???
  • I’ll dig into an update on my PWP approach in my next article, for now I readily acknowledge that this Index is influenced by passing accuracy – but it’s also influenced by shooting accuracy too.
  • In looking at the Eastern Conference; the exception last year was Houston and it remains so again this year.  This time Houston, with 14 games played, are in fourth in the League Table but 17th overall in PWP; if that 4th place is to continue I’d offer that their PWP Indices will improve compared to other teams.
  • As for Montreal, Chicago, Toronto (with 3-5 games in hand), Philadelphia and New York are in the bottom half while Columbus, Sporting, New England and DC United are in the top half for both.
  • Bottom line – with a few exceptions the Index looks reasonable – can it be a predictor at or near the 17 game point for all teams? I’m not sure but watching this Index change from week to week is intriguing.

Given that interesting output, I decided to take a look at how teams sit in the Index relative to games played at home versus on the road.

Through Week 12 Home vs Road Composite PWP

Through Week 12 Home vs Road Composite PWP

The team who appears to be performing the best on the road, relative to their own Index ratings, is Chivas – their differential is -.39.  In looking at the total goals scored at home they have six, on the road they have 7.    Chivas have taken six points away from home and four points at home.

Chicago Fire also appear to do better on the road than at home – they have 11 goals on the road and eight goals at home.  Indeed they also have taken six  points away from home and six points at home.

In looking at the upper end of the Index differences, New England leads PWP in team performance at home versus on the road.  Their own Index difference is .68; with 13 points at home and ten points on the road going with 11 home goals and 10 road goals.

Next up is San Jose at .49 – they have scored 11 goals at home and just two on the road.  Taking 12 points at home and just one point on the road.
In looking at the six steps of PWP for New England (home and away) they have about the same possession (~47% each) and overall passing accuracy (72.7% each).  The biggest difference comes in penetration completion; at home the Revolution complete ~33% of all their overall passes within the Final Third; while on the road that figure is ~26% – a full 7% points difference.   So it appears they are more willing to possess with the “intent to possess” more on the road.

In addition, the number of shots taken versus passes completed in the Final Third is ~17% at home while ~15% on the road.  Again, more patience in attack on the road…

Finally, while their Shots taken versus shots on goal are slightly higher on the road (42% to 40%) their ability to score goals versus shots on goal is 33% at home versus 23% on the road.    In other words they are more accurate in their goals scored at home.

As for San Jose the wide difference in goals scored at home versus on the road should be pretty obvious but in case you were wondering – in the four games San Jose have played on the road their overall penetration into the final third is 3% less than at home.

Their shots taken versus completed passes in the Final Third is 9% less, Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken is 14% less and their Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal is 19% less.  In the case of San Jose it’s “less means less” in almost every category…

In considering Chivas…

To date they have played 5 games at home.  At home their possession is 4% higher, passing accuracy is 6% higher, penetration is 1% higher, their shots per penetration is higher by 2% but their shots on goal per shot taken is 7% lower and their goals scored versus shots on goal is 17% lower.

In other words, at home, they appear to have more quantity in their overall passing to penetrate but they have less quality when it comes to scoring goals.

In closing:

I’m not sure how this will play out for the year but at this stage the data is interesting.  Is it compelling one way or the other? Hard to tell, but we don’t know what we don’t know unless we at least throw it out there to take a look…

For now I think it is compelling enough to re-look later this year on how team performance in PWP takes shape at home and away…

Best, Chris